Surveillance camera and graffiti (image courtesy of iStock - 000011792920)

Twentieth-century American crime fiction was fathered by Edgar Allen Poe, inventor of the amateur "armchair" detective and his narrator side-kick, the locked room mystery, the bumbling police force, the catalogue of minutiae, cryptic ciphers, false clues and accusations, and ratiocination. Explore all this and more as we consider authors as diverse as Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, James Ellroy and Patricia Highsmith. 

We trace the genre’s development from hard-boiled detectives to its postmodern reinventions. As we undertake our own surveillance and deduction of this diverse and dynamic genre, we will explore the cultural contexts of American crime writing, its prevailing conventions of the genre, as well as challenges to those conventions: the making – and breaking – of the Rules of the Game.